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View Full Version : A Case of Senioritis Gates tackles education’s two-headed monster.



PoliCon
11-30-2010, 01:00 PM
by Jonathan AlterNovember 28, 2010

Bill Gates is raising his arm, bent at the elbow, in the direction of the ceiling. The point he’s making is so important that he wants me and the pair of Gates Foundation staffers sitting in the hotel conference room in Louisville, Ky., to recognize the space between this thought and every lower-ranking argument. “If there’s one thing that can be done for the country, one thing,” Gates says, his normally modulated voice rising, “improving education rises so far above everything else!” He doesn’t say what the “else” is—deficit reduction? containing Iran? free trade?—but they’re way down toward the floor compared with the arm above that multibillion-dollar head. With the U.S. tumbling since 1995 from second in the world to 16th in college-graduation rates and to 24th place in math (for 15-year-olds), it was hard to argue the point. Our economic destiny is at stake.

Gates had just finished giving a speech to the Council of Chief State School Officers in which he tried to explain how administrators could hope to raise student achievement in the face of tight budgets. The Microsoft founder went through what he sees as false solutions—furloughs, sharing textbooks—before focusing on the true “cost drivers”: seniority-based pay and benefits for teachers rising faster than state revenues.

Seniority is the two-headed monster of education—it’s expensive and harmful. Like master’s degrees for teachers and smaller class sizes, seniority pay, Gates says, has “little correlation to student achievement.” After exhaustive study, the Gates Foundation and other experts have learned that the only in-school factor that fully correlates is quality teaching, which seniority hardly guarantees. It’s a moral issue. Who can defend a system where top teachers are laid off in a budget crunch for no other reason than that they’re young?

In most states, pay and promotion of teachers are connected 100 percent to seniority. This is contrary to everything the world’s second-richest man believes about business: “Is there any other part of the economy where someone says, ‘Hey, how long have you been mowing lawns? … I want to pay you more for that reason alone.’ ” Gates favors a system where pay and promotion are determined not just by improvement in student test scores (an idea savaged by teachers’ unions) but by peer surveys, student feedback (surprisingly predictive of success in the classroom), video reviews, and evaluation by superiors. In this approach, seniority could be a factor, but not the only factor.

President Obama knows that guaranteed tenure and rigid seniority systems are a problem, but he’s not yet willing to speak out against them. Even so, Gates gives Obama an A on education. The Race to the Top program, Gates says, is “more catalytic than anyone expected it to be” in spurring accountability and higher standards.

CONTINUED (http://www.newsweek.com/2010/11/28/alter-education-is-top-priority-for-gates.html)

Lager
11-30-2010, 01:17 PM
I think Gates has some interesting ideas in this area. And, he has the money to apply where he sees opportunity for it to achieve some good. This should prove interesting in contrasting the difference between private money going where it can best achieve results, versus government money going to schools, dished out without much focus, and also heavily tilted toward political interests, rather than specific problems.

m00
12-02-2010, 11:26 PM
Yeah, so I wonder if he can fund this whole thing from his cut of Bush tax cuts. :p

Madisonian
12-03-2010, 09:21 AM
First of all we have to get over this notion that everyone needs to go to college and that entrance or graduation rates are somehow an indicator of a nation's prosperity.

If you look back in history, some of the greatest inventors, thinkers and entrepreneurs never spent 1 day in an advanced educational setting and in some cases did not complete primary education.

We encourage children to take on tens of thousands in debt to get a degree in something that interests them, like for example advanced Sanskrit, with promises that it will lead to a higher paying job or career when in fact, there are very few legitimate needs for advanced studies in a college or university setting.

Even when those needs are present, we saddle the prospective student with requirements to take classes that are outside of one's chosen field in the name of a "well rounded" education. This is in reality a welfare system for the college to milk funds from students and taxpayers alike to support departments that have no connection or productive output to the real world.

The government likes the college idea, more so now they have taken over the student loan program. Now after 4 to whatever years of study, you are financially beholding to them and since they can now increase their claim of federal funding, they have more say over the curriculum to be force fed. Am I the only one that has noticed that the increase in liberalism or progressivism can be directly correlated to increasing college attendance rates? Colleges and universities are turning away from being centers of learning and turning towards being centers of indoctrination. It is where people like Ward Churchill, Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohm and similar otherwise unemployable leftist radicals can push their agenda unfettered and paid for with your tax dollars one way or another.

Want to sit around and whine that the world is unfair, you can't find a job as a PhD in Ancient Greek Mythology all the while being $200,000 in debt to the government, go to college.

Odysseus
12-03-2010, 11:20 AM
President Obama knows that guaranteed tenure and rigid seniority systems are a problem, but he’s not yet willing to speak out against them. Even so, Gates gives Obama an A on education. The Race to the Top program, Gates says, is “more catalytic than anyone expected it to be” in spurring accountability and higher standards.

CONTINUED (http://www.newsweek.com/2010/11/28/alter-education-is-top-priority-for-gates.html)

He's not willing to speak out against them because he's owned by them. His only remaining loyal constituency outside of blacks is unionized, public sector labor. Bucking teachers' unions means throwing away the support of the NEA, UFT and would throw a scare into every other public employee union. It's the one thing that he cannot afford to do. What he will do, if I read him correctly, is try to co-opt the argument by letting Reid and Pelosi put together a teachers' union wish list that he will then label a "reform" bill and try to get it passed.

The other interesting thing is that Gates, who should know better, gives Obama an A for having done nothing. I wonder if he was on the Nobel Peace Prize committee.